Saturday, October 29, 2005

The House No More

The House No More.

Do you remember that house, which once stood firmly, there -
Its dusty well used verandahs, darkening rooms; its air?
Do you still see its colours as it moved? Do you hear its song?
No more stands there; it has gone; it has moved along.

Is memory clear on boots thrown, knives and blocks of wood?
Resplendent recollection of rollicking, running fights and good
belly-endangering laughter, and kids that all belong
to the house that is no more; is gone; it has moved along?

Do you remember clearly all the lessons that it taught?
Leave space for junk, a whole room, and own up if you’re caught -
Run like hell when chased, don’t swing out wide on the turn -
If your big sister gets you, the thumps you get you earn.

If you can’t read the comics first, rip them up; hide them very well.
Your mother loves you always, even if you’ve been the kid from hell.
Your father is not so easy fooled, but you can make him laugh,
Once a week for society’s sake you have to have a bath.

To have a bath, you turn the copper on and carry in the water.
In times of drought, you share the bath, in a dirt-descending order.
Learn to swim, jump right in a Nun walks round the pool with her cane.
You cop it sweet, and hold it in, till you get home again.

Wet the bed, you know, that you can go, the parents bed is there.
First in best dressed, we all fit in till there is no room to spare.
Legs and arms, and chins and chests, we slumber on peace.
Grandma says eat your tomatoes, or I’ll give you to the police

Play with the kitchen fire and get burned, use butter not margarine Make sure you eat your lollies where you cannot be seen.
If seen, and if bought with the change you weren’t meant to spend,
Stuff them all in before they get you, you need both hands to defend.

The car’s back seat is the place to sleep, and you never have to worry,
For late at night, arriving home  your Dad is glad to carry,
Each of us to bed, to sleep so safe, the house it held us loose
To dream and play, to grow away, the lives we had to choose.

And for you, like me stands true the Mother tall and bright?
Everywhere she is quietly tending all her “fires of light”.
Becoming later, what inside herself, she understood was wrong.
No more she suffers, is gone on;  for she has moved along.

The Father carven into memory smells of grass and earth and early day.
From black and white photos he, smoking silently,  stays away;
Leaves beans, and kids he grew, ungrown, such as us do belong,
Dust unto dust; no more he carries, he has moved along.

In long contemplation, the house in summer light of youth,
rocks and thumps and bursts with life. It tells the truth.
The room to grow, we grew, were gone, but did belong,
to a house that is no more; is gone; we have moved along.

Remember that house we sopped up like gravy into our being,
Is now inside a rumbly, raucous, raging, rightness in our seeing.
Has been fed by inhalation to kids with sparky eyes who came along,
To share the dream of a house, no more; is gone; has moved along.

Therese Mackay 2/12/00



There it is again. I can’t move my arms or legs. I feel as if there is a hag pressing hard on my chest. Sleep Paralysis runs in families I have been told. People of the same bloodline seem to experience it more. Strange that.

Hang on a bit. Think. Don’t panic. It doesn’t do any good to panic. Remember, it’ll snap off soon and there’ll be such a feeling of relief. Think about that.

I feel a dreadful menace in the room and the room is black. So black it seems to have no walls. Yet that blackness has flickers of movement in it, whizzing about. I can at least open my eyes and look but that’s all.

I try to call out, and even the word won’t come out. It is inside my head. I know if I can make the sound outside the paralysis will break and I’ll be okay again.

It’ll be over soon. Just a few more seconds and my body will catch up with my brain. But what if one day it never stops and I’ll be here in some sort of coma? I always feel terror when this comes to me.

What’s wrong? It hasn’t ended. This time is different.

I see a small pinpoint of piercing white light above me at roof level. Or where I think the roof should be. It grows and seems to dissolve the roof.
Am I having a stroke? Is this how I die?

A clammy leathery hand grasps my left wrist. I try to move my right arm to push it off hoping it will do what I tell it, when my right arm is pinned down by another hand, the same.

This is real Rosemary.

I am terrorized by that realisation

We float up. Lucky I wore my Tracky Dacs is the silly thought I have. Propriety is so ingrained in me at sixty-one it even kicks in in times of deadly danger, like this.

Through the roof. Up. Up in the beam of light. I can feel this light. Its full of sparkles and little bits yet they seem to whiz through me as if I’m no longer solid. And I am a pretty solid object these days. They feel cold and hot, like when you walk barefoot on hot tar in high summer.

What do they want with me? Not my old ovaries that’s for sure. My eggs are safe from their genetic engineering anyway. Menopause is over thank God.

Maybe they eat humans! Plenty to eat here. Maybe I’ll be too tough and gristly for them.

Maybe its my brain they’re after. They want to steal my memories, and use them to take over the suburbs. Nah! It’s a pretty ordinary brain. It was a bit better once, but nothing spectacular.

Maybe they’ll liquefy it and suck it all up through a straw. They don’t seem to have any teeth.

I can see them clearly now. They move sort of like robots, but more like overgrown insects in human form. I hear them clicking to each other like a room full of old typewriters all clacking away together. They all look the same to me, and just like the pictures of the grey aliens.

In my paralysed state I have time to think methodically. I feel sedated and more curious. I imagine that insects trapped in a spider’s cocoon waiting to be eaten would have time to think like this as they waited.

When will they come and rip me limb from limb? They are not friendly. They are cold and neutral.

Ahead of me is a figure. It is different. Tall. Eight feet at least and very stocky. Good looking even. Almost human. Stop it Rosie old girl, this is not the time…

It looks at me. Now I am really scared. Scared shitless! It’s eyes are like lizard eyes, and are yellow green. Its tongue flickers like a snake’s. It has ears like Spock on Star Trek.

It walks towards me. This is it. I think. It’ll take a lot of filling up and the way he’s looking at me, I think I am on the menu. Well at least an appetizer. It’d need a horse for the main course.

It leans over and touches my arm and I am released and can move. “Oh! Great, now I’ll be able to feel it when I am served up.”

A big bright blue tear falls from his eye. Strange I didn’t think reptiles could cry. I sit up and look at him…deciding finally that it is male. There is something familiar about him. He has thick blue black curly hair. All the men in our family have that.

That is bizarre.

He opens his mouth out comes that tongue and he hisses loudly. He wipes the tear away and opens his mouth again. He looks like he’s struggling to say something,
“Mummy!” he holds out his large arms. “Mummy!” he walks to me and hugs me.

I scream and scream yet hear no sound.

Behind him are hundreds of versions of him, male ands female coming across the large room.
“Mummy! Mummy!” they coo plaintively, all with arms outstretched.

I am carried to a large gold throne, which is covered in emeralds, lapis lazuli, rubies, amber and amethyst. A glass of the best ‘Cardonnay’ is placed in my hand.

Oh goodie. I am not the main course after all.

Before me they are all seated at a massive table laden with the best a girl like me could want.

They raise their glasses and call out,
“All Hail Mummy! Queen Rosemary. Queen of the Hive.”

So that’s where all my eggs got to. No bloody wonder I had so much trouble getting pregnant.

Therese Mackay October 2005

The Ides of March

The Ides of March.

It all happened on the Ides of March - history glorified Caesar, through well-deserved murder, made into martyrdom. Sweet Julio, cut from his Mother’s womb, so long ago. Whatever happened to her I wonder? Does history record? Perhaps he should have been left stillborn.

Knives in the back, a fitting end for one who fed the masses,  the vanquished Celtic Queens and Kings in his Triumphal Marches - Proud men and women who fought the Roman way,  were food for the captured lions. The lions, later  also slaughtered, trodden under the feet of terrified elephants, all survivors dutifully speared by desperate gladiators - who thereby lived a day longer.

Ah! Sweet Julio, the vine who wound himself around the proud heart of the true Queen Cleopatra, the only one of the Ptolemies to go native; Cleopatra, who traded love and body to save her beloved land - a land older than time, a way of living alien to the rigid plodding and barbarous Roman way, that we still live by at a respectable distance.

Jules, the boy, grown man, self deifying in his own mirror, the wreath of ivy placed upon his own human head... a God! Like Charlamagne, who charged and stormed and murdered; like Henry and Elizabeth Tudor; like Cromwell and like the frog- mouthed Hanovarian Georges, “Begone Stuarts, descendants of the Bruces and Holy Way.

Julio, the patrician butcher, of sucked in cheeks and dripping sword, held always in someone else’s hand. As with mushy faced Victoria, Boer blood on her doughy jowls; as Adolph - they had the same eyes - who dabbled in the spiritual and never learned the most basic of  spiritual laws, of ‘reaping what you sow’.  Lenin, Stalin Mao and Bush, “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa - forgive us for we knew exactly what we did but we did it anyway”.  Lest we forget Panama, Grenada, and Iraq.

It all happened on the Ides of a March so long ago, that Thatcher should have known better, and also Gough and Malcolm, red cheeked after sipping quality scotch, with Malcolm keeping his belt tightly on his trousers, because of past mistakes, both hoping no one would notice that little problem of East Timor and how they slipped so smoothly between the silky sheets of the bed of Soeharto’s Indonesian trade…lest we forget…we forgot… till it all smacked us in the chops, and we could no longer pretend.

Heroes all! Not Julius’ mother who suffered hard the knife to bear him - but Julio’s deeds are deified instead, deeds of blood, power and evil. Cleopatra, his whore, the scarlet woman, whose country fed the Roman empire fat, with grain, who spoke fourteen languages proficiently, and cried bitter tears as her vast Alexandrian library of ancient ways and learning was burning. Cleopatra who vomited to bile, whilst forced to watch Julie’s Roman debauchery. She knew her place. Who was the real whore then?

Roll on the Ides of March!

Diana the fine and comely huntress, strides across the frame of history, in protective gear, in case of landmines, a Bruce descendant, from the Celtic way - a Queen of our hearts, not of the Roman way. The flag hung low - authorised by Elizabeth Windsor, previously Saxe- Coburg Gotha, who, shocked cold by waves of public grieving was persuaded it was good for public relations and she’d better get her finger out and show some response. Not to think that family relations meant anything at all.

True Lady of the Lake, of Avalon, of Tir na Nogue, of time before - an idea whose time has come -  Diana’s line - that Hadrian that lesser God, built his wall to keep out; what cannot be subdued, must be walled up, walled out , walled in or walled over - ignored...beyond Julio’s fist.

“Watch your back Julius”, his fading wide advised - was it a dream she had... or had someone told her as Jules slept the satisfied sleep of adulterer, butcher and God?

“Beware the Ides of March”, the truth will out, for some... and while Roman roads are effective for moving troops, collecting taxes, and transporting people and filched treasures, the roads they covered, the faery roads of Celtic ways, are forcing their determined way up between the cracks of Julian eugenics.

“Et tu Brutus!” he exclaimed in surprise; one wonders why. Did he think to die an old man in a bed tended by a grieving wife?

A wife, now free, to hold up her head - Julius Caesar’s widow - to lie alone in bed as usual and dream, as women do.

“Beware the Ides of March”, Julio, ‘All the way with LBJ’ Soeharto, Bush, and Pinochet.  The sad broken dreams of motherless and fatherless children, cry out down through the centuries of Julian evil, for the milk for their survival and love and place of family. Their arms reach for the hearth of home, the arms of comfort and the gentleness of their mother’s humming. You can’t take your power with you, Julius, Torquemanda, Popes, Czars, Monarchs, Kings and Prime Ministers, innumerable, ...there are no Gods in heaven - just one - the one of truth.

It all happened on the Ides of March, and was no big deal at all.

Therese Mackay   - The Ides of March - 2000

McCullys Gap

McCully’s Gap

I was listening to some Irish Celtic music and found myself inside of its yearning sounds. Memories broke open in my mind of times and places, and a time in particular which I haven’t really ever spoken about. That that music yearns and becomes an inside thing in my heart makes sense to me. Its familiar harmonies take my mind to places where sometimes it may be best not to go – okay if there is no glass of wine at hand, but apt to make me emotional, in memories of big wide skies and mountains and most of all people and the eye shine and devilment they held inside them.

People who’s faces’ flit across the sight of my inner eye and so maybe I may not always see windows and chairs at first, but first remember their eye shine, smell their smells and wonder at them and where they are now.

I guess I like to know where the people are that I love. I like to think that they are happy, warm and loved, wherever they are now. I hope more for them than for myself because I know that for me, and as far as I am concerned I will always be okay, no matter what…well I hope so anyway.

But if at times life and its happenings reduces me to a blob of tears, then its okay to have a sea of tears come from these eyes, because what harm have tears ever done me, and how much better do I feel after shedding a few in the right places?

Sometimes this type of music reminds me of times I spent with Mum’s Mother’s brother and sister, Uncle Pat and Aunty Annie. I see wonderful old Uncle Pat (Patrick Francis Flanagan) aged seventy five, tall and lanky with feet the size of tables, twirling gracefully around a country hall, dancing, dancing, laughing, laughing, after a full day’s work on the farm. In my mind’s eye, he still reaches down from his horse and opens a stock gate for me…no problems. Two years later he is an old man physically after a stroke devastates his body. This memory remains, and while I am still alive…he is still alive, and I smell still his pipe tobacco, even when it was empty and he just chewed on it…even when he was reduced to roll your owns…his pipe tobacco smell remains.

He never married the woman he loved…she was sent away to New Zealand by her family, and their letters were intercepted by each family till time passed and each moved on. I think that they are together somewhere now. He did marry, but it ended in disaster and one day he came home to an empty house, no furniture and a swag of unpaid debts. Aunty Annie always said she hated “Coronation Street” because they all spoke like Uncle Pat’s wife…and she had no love for the English anyway being Timothy Flanagan’s daughter.

Mum told me all of that, and that’s all I know except that when Aunty Annie finally died at eighty six in 1972, on Christmas Eve, she told Mum that the only regret she had was that she obeyed her parent’s wishes, and intercepted all the letters written to Uncle Pat by his love in New Zealand. She was young and just did what she was told, but she knew that it was this destruction of the most decent thing in Uncle Pat’s life as a young man, which flavoured so much, which followed. Poor Aunty Annie to carry that for so long. I wonder did she ever tell him.

Uncle Pat was wonderful. So much like Mum, enjoying the ridiculous and seemingly always happy and we children just loved him, and never stood on ceremony with him as we did with other adults.

I still see him, sliding around, dancing with everyone game enough to risk those feet and his swagger, which was theatrical, not threatening. He told stories, such stories. I wish I remembered them, although Mum did remember some, but I don’t. But I do remember their telling and his facial expressions and how he could draw me in in the telling till all I saw were his eyes and hear his big “Haw! Haw!” laugh. Oh! Uncle Pat so much time has passed that I almost forgot. How good is this memory. Nothing was sacred to him but life and we children were more sacred than anything. He was wonderful.

Life itself was always sacred to these people and I think that that sacredness of life was not just my birthright, but the best gift I could have ever been given from my family, if that makes sense.

Somewhere he still dances, somewhere he still tells stories, somewhere inside my heart he still opens the gate for me and always he will in my heart.

I had a velvet harlequin doll. It’s long gone now. Dad and Mum gave it to me when I turned six. But I remember Dad actually giving it to me because Mum was in hospital. It was blue and pink and smiled at me. It was beautiful. I hugged that little doll to my chest and I can still remember Dad telling my elder sister June and I that we had a new baby sister and that she’d been born on my birthday.

I wonder sometimes about old toys, and things; old places and people. It seems like they are there in closed up cells – like bee honeycombs in my brain; sealed and dormant and then for no apparent reason, maybe the smell of the night air, or wood smoke, or the laughter of children playing the memories out grow their cell and pour into my consciousness like honey. Usually sweet and precious and they can make me cry, but that’s okay.

It was high summer, hot and dry. June and I had been sent to stay for a couple of months at Mum’s Mother’s brother and sister’s place at McCully’s Gap, east of Muswellbrook. It was like a faery tale place to me as it had no electricity and no running water and it was all such a novelty to those of us who were too small to notice the hard work involved. We’re here June and I, because Mum has been sick, and in the late stages of pregnancy. But being a kid all I know is that I’m pretty happy although I miss her softness and infinite patience. No one in my life will ever be a patient and funny as she is, except maybe Uncle Pat. But at six I don’t think all that much about these things, I just feel them.

At nights Aunty Annie would pull the lamp, which hung over the kitchen table and she’d light it. I loved watching this and can still remember the mellow light it cast on what was, in daytime hours a plain but interesting kitchen. When the lamp was lit the moths and other insects would swirl around the light and it got so we didn’t notice but got used to scooping them out of the pool of butter in the butter dish.

Aunty Annie and Uncle Pat’s kitchen rocked some evenings with people they knew. I remember names like Cassie Flanagan and Reg Tripp. I liked Cassie but can’t think where she came in the family make up, except that like Aunty and Uncle she was a Flanagan or married to one. I think she may have been Reg Tripp’s sister. Reg Trip was the son of Aunty and Uncle’s mother’s sister. They were Butlers or Tripp’s or …who knows I still can’t figure it out. Old Reg Tripp was a noisy man, and when he was around everyone seemed to revert to the family way of loving a good gossip and they would all become quite garrulous. The big teapot was ready for pouring and huge quantities of tea were drunk. Aunty drank it black and hot, and it was the blackest tea I had ever seen. She would just throw more and more tea leaves in and keep topping up the water, so that by the end of the day it might have been possible to stand a teaspoon up in it, that’s if it wasn’t made of aluminium…her tea would have eaten through anything.

Uncle Pat could always be counted on to outrage all the ladies present by pouring out his tea into his saucer and blowing on it before noisily slurping it down. With a wicked look around to make sure we were all watching. Aunty would say “Oh! Pat!” over and over, in mock disgust at his eccentricities, eccentricities that we all loved and took great delight in, but not as much delight as he took in them I am sure.

Reg Trip was about eighty at this time, although I am not sure on this either but it doesn’t really matter to a six year old. Old is just old at six. I remember he tried to tell me one night that men always could sing much better than women, which I knew was ridiculous and demonstrated in front of them all that I could sing so much better that Reg Tripp, and therefore all women were better singers than any man on earth. Sure I had won that argument, I no doubt went off to bed without realising that a debate between an eighty year old and a six year old, especially one graced by my singing must have been great entertainment, and fodder for amusement in that small, quiet little house in the Australian bush, so long ago. I had forgotten all of this till just now writing it down.

I am darn sure that Reg Tripp and Uncle Pat had a stash of a little alcoholic something very well hidden from Aunty Annie, because they always seem to get louder as the nights would go on, but I can say I never saw anyone drunk, nor cause any trouble. I think that all of them and us would have been too scared of Aunty Annie’s reaction had anyone transgressed her hatred of alcohol. She hated it with a passion.

Dad was part of the male conspiracy of hidden forbiddens like smokes and whatever they had hidden. After Uncle Pat had a stroke, not too long after all of this happened, he was told not to smoke or drink, a rule he had little chance of breaking due to Auntie’s vigilance. Dad would roll up a week or fortnight’s supply of roll your owns for Uncle Pat and I know that these got hidden in a tin box somewhere inaccessible to Aunty. I can remember her spotting them out sitting beyond a tree and seeing the smoke coming out from behind that tree. I think that many a tree stump might have hidden in its time, many a stash, as Uncle Pat would have had more than one source. Of that there would be little doubt.

They had a lovely old piano, which belonged to our Grandmother who died young, when Mum was only three or four. It had two candlestick holders fixed to each side of the piano, for light. It also had a curling type of lattice and net work right across the front panel, and I thought it was the loveliest things to see. I could stare for ages at its whorls and the whorls in the woodwork, and it seemed faces appeared and re appeared as I watched. In the room where the piano was, there were a few books and easy chairs and even in the heat it always seemed a little dark and cool. This room was not for playing in, just for sitting quietly.

Aunty was as brave as she could be. As the house was flat to the ground it was not uncommon for the odd snake to find its way inside. In those days and with the real danger of dying from snakebite, all snakes were dispatched quickly and in a matter of fact manner. Times have changed, but then most of us are closer to hospitals, which can actually treat snakebite when you arrive. There was a very real terror of snakebite, especially with small children around, and rightly so. Needs must. A sharp-ended shovel was always ready.

(Left – Aunty Annie – taken about 1970 – ten years after this story, but she hadn’t changed much, just a little older)

I remember running across the paddock one day in that summer with June. She suddenly yelled out for me to “Stop… don’t put your foot down!” which I didn’t, possibly being more shocked by June’s yelling (which she never did…unlike me). There just in front was a large brown snake. We turned and fled back to the house, forgetting all the wise words of not running away from snakes because they can run faster, no matter how fast you run. But it didn’t and we made it back to the house. Out strode Auntie, grabbing that shovel she headed straight for where we last saw the snake, prepared to do battle without any thought of grabbing some man to do it, or even hesitating hoping it would just go away. Not her she tackled it head on. I was so impressed…but it was gone and there was no battle that we saw.

(Right – June and I a year or two before this time)

Its here at this place that June does about the only wrong thing I can ever really remember her doing. Its early Sunday morning and we are all dressed up for Sunday Mass and for no reason apparent to anyone June who is eighteen months older than me, upends a whole bowl of porridge over her darn pretty curly curls of hers and the muck drops down in clods all over her dress. From my suddenly elevated position of “the good girl” I might be thinking that she doesn’t look quite so pretty now” but I can’t recall. I am basic enough to have revelled in this event so it is quite likely I thought this. But then again knowing how funny things always seemed to me, when I wasn’t all fired over something, I was usually finding something much more funny than it was expected I might. This caused a lot of troubles for me in my childhood

I know we made it to Mass which was a long drive into town at no more than the thirty miles per hour that Aunty always drove her black Morris Major at, no matter where she was. For Aunty Annie missing morning Mass was truly a mortal sin and no upended bowl of porridge was going to get her and her loved ones on that road to hell if she could help it.

I am so very happy here. Endless days of playing. Running about in the sun. Sitting in the tree near the back gate and thinking that the adults couldn’t see me as they passed through that gate.

One memory is so clear to me. June and I slept in Aunty Annie’s bed while at their place. Aunty would move out to the verandah room. One day June and I decided to use Auntie’s big bed as a spring board out through the verandah window onto her little bed on the verandah. June when through first. No problems. Then I went through. Suddenly, disastrously and predictably for me that bloody bed of Auntie’s on the verandah totally collapsed. True to form…I just took off. No questions asked, I n=knew after a year or two of the Aberdeen St Joseph nuns that punishment was sure to follow such a transgressions this. So off I went. But a kid has to come home. When I did I was sent to our bedroom for the afternoon, which seemed dreadful punishment to me at that time. I heard later that Aunty was amused when she went to let me out later on at Tea Time and I was fast asleep all tuckered out from my “activities”. So it wasn’t really much of a punishment.

I can think of no nicer memory right now today than to recall those warm, black velvet nights, when the stars were so large and clear and pulsated in so many colours. All along the verandah they would be sitting out talking and if it was hot enough, we would sometimes even sleep out there. Yes sure, later on in the night the mosquitos might drive us crazy, but it was just lovely to lie there and listen to the murmur of adult voices and drift off to sleep, only to wake at dawn to a sky rich in pastels of pinks and blues. No matter what happened in the days, whatever trouble I might have caused or gotten into, it was these moments of peace which I held onto in my little heart and which I am aware of carrying about inside me all my life – no matter whatever else I may have forgotten.

Then it was over. They moved into town after Uncle Pat had the first of a series of strokes. I began to grow up, and within a ten-year space, first Uncle Pat died, then later Dad was killed and then Aunty Annie too died, alone in hospital from throat cancer…maybe from all that strong black tea. I went back in about 1990, just after Mum sold her house in Scone to move over near us in Port Macquarie. I drove her, Joan and Jackie out to Auntie’s old house, or where it used to be, on the day of the sale. No house, nor any sign of a house, but I found the tree which used to stand near the back gate, so I had my bearings. Just the hill left, and the tree, and also the sky, the big wide wonderful sky, and those mountains, with the face in the rock, which caused me so much concern as a child. So much laughter, and richness. But not to worry that’s how it is. Things go…houses… pianos… lamps. People don’t. People live in our memory and for me those memories get sweeter and more precious and good.

It was a time, my time to be the child… to be childish… to be curious without reservation. And for me to be so lucky that the people I was born amongst had the patience and humour to let me grow as I was meant to grow.

How easy it could have been that I could have been born amongst cruelty and ridicule in my family?

Aunty Annie and Uncle Pat, being my Mother’s Mother’s people held the magic and mystery of being that lost Grandmother’s brother and sister. I like to imagine that she had a little of each of them in her, and a lot of Mum, and then the mystery of her own self I can not know. They were all good people, even if at times a bit intolerant. I remember some of their sayings…if someone was being cruel especially at school Mum would always say,
     “You’ve got to understand, they’re just ignorant…just ignorant and they don’t know any better.” Or this beauty from Grandfather McGoldrick (Mum’s father), which was reserved for any woman of the family who breached certain standards,
     “She’s turning into a real town woman.” That was really bad. And a few of them used this term for those types of people and families who used the word “bum” instead of “bottom”,
     They are just so common.” To be called common was the worst insult and to hand with kids or families who talked like this and who were therefore common was not on. Common had nothing at all to do with money or education. Common had to do with class, which came from decency and inside.

Aunty Annie Flanagan and Uncle Pat Flanagan, brother and sister had no children of their own, although he was once married. But they looked after so many children in their lives and gave and gave without expectation of receiving…dying quietly with little worldly goods to show – but that was just how they were.

When we came home from Aunty and Uncle’s there was a most beautiful baby ensconced in all frilly white lace and a bassinette in Mum and Dad’s bedroom in Aberdeen. I was struck with wonder at how beautiful she was, so much white and softness in this harsh hot Australian country town. I hated coming home and dreamt that Mum and Dad might be able to live out of town. Town seemed petty and small to me after the wonderful time and happenings at Auntie and Uncle’s place out at McCully’s Gap.

Therese Mackay   July 2004

The Roses Story

The Rose’s Story

In the dark morning, mist rolls up around my stem. I soak it in as my heavy dark crimson head opens its’ petals, just a little more than yesterday.

As the earth sloughs off the dark, a golden orb strobes through the trees and lights my head with droplets of gold.

I exhale deep scents and quiver gently as the morning wind picks up.

Above me are myriads of spider webs, strung out like glittering treasures.

I live again.

The night’s cold dissipates.

My stem is rooted deeply upon a mound of rich ashy dirt. I see with eyes I do not have, things that have no form to see. Life pulses, scratches, and inches about my roots. Long fleshy worms, and things so small they have no names populate the world below the ground. A world as much mine as the one above. And just as necessary.

I see inside a window and she is looking back at me. We join for the moment because my beauty gives her pleasure and opens her heart. I go in bringing my scent and the secrets that I carry. Secrets formed by the laws of the universe, which are easily understood in the pattern of my petals.

She knows. I know she knows.

I reflect the very small and the very large, like she who regards me. Both of us are part of the creative force with laws and rules of design binding us to each other consciously for this moment but unconsciously for all time.

All the universe is in my flower. All the universe is in she who regards me for my loveliness.

(image placeholder)

Therese Mackay
August 2005

Who Cares About Molly

Who Cares About Molly?
What about Molly,
whose just reached middle age
But feels like the life she’s living in
is still on its first page?
The eyes she looks out with
are clear, wide and clean,
And nobody will ever take away
the vision that they dream.

What about Molly, whose chest hurts
every time she lies down to sleep?
Whose headache pills and alcohol take away
her will to laugh and weep.
The dreams she has, when sleep comes,
are forgotten by the morning,
The few that remain to weird her out,
are strange and full of warning.

And what of Molly
whose lips are pale and growing thin?
She clamps them tight when smiling
till she couldn’t look more grim.
Her mouth so used to laughter,
her heart so often light,
Tries  to grasp the joy within her,
but is wearied of the dragging fight.

What about my friend called Molly,
whose steps walk in my feet?
Whose heart lives in my present,
and who I often love to meet?
Whose feet are often dragging
whose heart is often raw
Who hides the hollowness behind her face,
and tries to heal the sore?

Who cares, as Molly rides across my mind,
her profile brave and true?
A  loyal woman who always does
what duty tells her she must do?
She holds the dream of mountains high,
beyond the world around,
A dream that stirs within her
when she walks barefoot upon the ground.
She hopes her body will still obey her,
if there comes a time one day,
When she can have the time to live her youth,
and take her time to play.

What of Molly whose years hold her
invisible to the world that is her life?
A daughter, niece, sister, aunt; a friend,
mother and a loving wife.
She’s all of this, and does it as easily
as breathing in the air -
Still holds within the ancient things;
and her younger feet still hover there.
Her older feet are ahead, in times
that haven’t  come to her this time round.
She tries to keep it all alive, and still keep
both feet solid on the ground.

Who cares about Molly,
whose eyes are taking all she sees within?
Not the sullen or the small- minded
who see this as some kind of sin.
But the small mean things will fall away
as she grabs her chance to grow;
And all the Mollies ever will know what she will know...
That Molly lives within us all,
and loves to laugh, to learn, to understand...
For the light shines in all the Mollies,
very strong and grand.

The world needs all its Mollies, to do as duty calls,
but yet hold a true belief.
For without a Molly deep inside,
the world is just a place of grief.

Therese Mackay    March 2001

Hot Hotter and Hottest

Hot, Hotter and Hottest.

I shall write my five hundred or so words on Menopause. I will not go on  about empowerment,  nor wisdom or coming into one’s own or any of that  because for me this last summer of menopause has been one of daily misery.

I am like the old cubby house that I built in those days when I was Queen of the house. It is like me. It still leans against the paling fence, its concrete floor inscribed with the names of children and myself all now fifteen years older. Fanciful tulle curtains draped by childish hands to cover the windows are now draped by the weather’s whims and wishes...a bit like me trying to get my lipstick onto lips that have almost disappeared. Hm!

I feel as rejected and unused as the old cubby house. Quietly falling apart in the oppressive humidity; becoming part of the quivering, crawling moistness; sort of rotting away. I do feel like the old cubby house...”Yes its still there...remember all the fun we had in it!”

Is this how I really feel? Will it pass when the furnace dies down again inside me, and my flood of weeping eases? Do I need more Meno Eze...Remifemin? How in hell am I supposed to know?

Why can’t I stop crying? I see my own mother’s eyes looking back at me from the mirror...did she feel like this and I didn’t realise? Didn’t notice at all? Was I too busy to really see my own mother? Did she also grieve periodically, having to be the healer, the holder the lynchpin...till emotionally empty she cried the shit out of I do?

Is this really me in the bathroom mirror, hiding out with the door shut as I cry...writing these thoughts down...not a wardrobe drinker but a water closet writer...still can crack a joke huh?

Eyes swollen; piggy= like...looking like a crazy woman...a blowsy woman in my mirror. Can this possibly be me says a voice inside from somewhere far off? Trying to stop and regain control. There are visitors in the house and I must appear normal because if I don’t then they really will start to think I have lost it. I am really aware of maintaining control...for this very reason. The grip on appearing as I should is probably a good thing although it does not feel like it.

Trying to stop the flood, the flow but unable the cease the awful exhalation of everything inside that is coming out.

I drip...brow, eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, neck, chest...and when does the next three monthly or six monthly flood suddenly pour out of me...unannounced? Hopefully I will be at home.

I am burning up from a constant furnace in my chest, where I hold all my emotions...and almost hourly it seems to flare up into my head leaving me exhausted. Sapping my energy, deconstructing confidence which I took for granted but which was won after years of my beating at invisible walls.

Oh God! How many more Summers will be like this? Power surges...what a lot of crap. How floaty and Yankee Oprah Winfrey style speak...How clever! How enlightened! How much of a con job is that? Yet another one to face down...denying my reality? If its so great for everyone else then the old guilt trip...”well then, whats wrong with me?”  has to be addressed in this fast becoming evangelical- style, politically- correct way of growing older.

I am so bloody hot all the time. My husband searching my eyes in concern and fear (of the unknown!!) when I release the pressure valve I must release in a torrent of words, tears and sweat.

My daughters both in their twenties, might look away and be wickedly amused if I fumble a bit too long with my bags, or get a bit flustered, but these days its not with embarrassment ( I assume). I feel their compassion and kindness and that is the greatest gift I can have. That they see me as a person in my own right, who is also their mother, and its no big deal if I am not the same every single time they see me. As a reward for their kindness I assure them that when its their turn, it’ll all be taken care of naturally of course...I hope it is but its laughable to think I can reassure them when I am in the middle of it myself.

But conversely there is a part of me that sits somewhere in a high place inside me, inside all the dripping, sweating, hot, blowsy, flustered, clumsy outer layers of me...sits somewhere closer to God...a part of me which sits inviolate, allowing that the raw and rough Celtic...”anything might and probably will happen” berserker in me is growing, being healed and honed by all of this human experience that the rest of me wonders if anyone ever needs. If only to have empathy for others, for what our Mothers endured so stoically...those that did not become institutionalised.

For too often my life feels as if I have stepped into the current of a raging river and I am no more than just dead wood in a summer flood. Sometimes I feel like I have no feelings, lacking excitement, interest, hopefulness...behaving methodically...(its a way to get what has to be done , done for those of us with no choice), when out of the blue I discovered that the Scottish Annals and Irish Annals both showed identical datelines for the birth, death and battles of a king called there is nothing wrong with me...history excites me; learning new truths excites me; realising and understanding new concepts; seeing our girls as people who can understand that their mother is excited by these things...and realising that they also feel the same way about these  sorts of things...Knowing that what really excites me is inside...inside that part of me that sits apart and never changes except to grow. But I knew all this years ago, being Menopausal didn’t allow me this insight.

SO...if and when I finally emerge from the world’s worst menopause...(when have I ever done or felt anything moderately?}...let me not ever forget what it felt like, nor put on rose coloured glasses...and imagine it as the best time of my life. I’d probably fog the bloody rose coloured glasses up these days anyway. It is not the best time of my life. It is one of the very worst times of my life and I see nothing at all positive about the reality of menopause as far as I am concerned. I used to feel great, superb, supremely healthy and now I am just hot, hotter or hottest, depending on the stress levels, the outside temperature and my hormonal nightmare.

Perhaps the lesson is...”This too shall pass”, and if I resist the con jobs of the mega industrial / pharmaceutical money making conglomerates who are in full forward throttle, assuring us that there is a gene for every known ailment, and emotional condition, and if we just keep giving generously to all their cutsey wutsey fund-raising events, “a cure fer what ails ya” is just around the corner, a con job which is dangled daily before my eyes as people I know laud the benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy, and wonderingly look at me hoping that soon too I will hop on the Hormone cash register, and “feel the immediate benefits” like them. Its the long term benefits I am after...and I wonder why my sister with breast cancer was warned never ever to use HRT...if there is no danger! And why are GP’s being asked to advise all women beginning HRT to have a Mammogram before they start? And why does the largest study on HRT for menopausal women show a massive rise in breast cancers in women who have used high as 50% for those who have used HRT for a few years and over 26% for short term users? This is on top of already high rates of breast cancer events in modern women, young and old. So...for all the anger and negativities and all of that...perhaps it is endurance, patience and acceptance that are the life lessons for me right now.

I was very surprised and pleased when I mentioned this to one of my daughters (in their twenties) that she said, “Mum, YOU don’t need to learn any more about endurance.” It made my day to know that she understood at a deep selfless level my reality...but my life ;lessons will be only over when I have drawn my last breath. In between that are hopefully many years of reflection and contemplation till finally I draw one last earthly breath and exhale into ...What? Perhaps my time for objective self observation. Now that will take some patience, endurance and acceptance.

There is plenty of information available on the dangers of HRT. (Sherill Sellman’s “Hormone Heresy -  What Women Must Know About Their Bodies” is essential reading for all women. Available Nexus PO BOX 30 Mapleton QLD. 2560 for $35 Ph 07 54429280

Therese Mackay 2001 & 2002

Lucky Me When I was Young

Lucky Me – When I was Young.

I am fifty-one now. It feels right but still a bit strange to think about.
When I was a kid our toilet paper was yesterday’s newspaper, torn into bits and stored either on a wire or in a cardboard box, in the outside toilet.

Nothing wrong with newspaper at all. So, people bought newspapers regularly…needs must. So no one had to buy toilet paper.

Phenyle was the disinfectant we used, and nothing survived it, so we all stayed well…and you knew if you had worms because they were there looking back at you, when the toilet pan was full.

Our toilet moved from side to side in strong wind and no amount of fixing or propping up seemed to sort this problem out.

Mum used no hair conditioner ever, but had lovely dark glossy hair. She used no face moisturiser but had smooth shiny skin at sixty-five. She never wore commercial deodorants, ever; but not once in my life can I remember her smelling…definitely a low cost upkeep woman my mum.

Dad was stocky and had big muscles and broad shoulders and he worked hard – fencing, woodcutting, painting houses, on top of his regular job at the abattoirs. On his holidays he repainted our own house a few times and dug huge vegetable gardens. The large yard was always neat and mowed.

Dad did a Milk Run out amongst the dairy farms near Glenbawn on some Saturday mornings at one time. I went with him and felt sorry for him having to lift those huge Milk cans from the stand to the back of the truck. I couldn’t even shift them. I loved going on the milk run with him, and no doubt talked his ears off…can’t remember what we talked about. I was too young to remember specifics, just the feelings.

Some Sundays he sat in the sun at the wood heap reading the papers, and enjoying peace.

We had baths on Saturday or Sunday and washed our hair from a dish on a chair in the back yard. There was sunlight soap in the early days. We had washes through the week and were always clean, except when we were not clean, but always when we went outside the yard. We were given a tablespoon of Olive Oil on Sunday night for digestion, and seldom got sick, except when we were really sick, and when we wanted to be sick, to get out of school.

Mum was okay with this occasionally.

Dad would use those big muscles to clean up the house on Sunday Mornings so Mum could go to Mass. He would cook Lamb’s Fry on Saturday mornings sometimes, which we loved. He would do shopping for mum when needed and made wonderful birthday cakes with lollies on top.

There was no “women’s work” attitude in him. He was a real man and didn’t need to be macho to prove it.

His shed was organised and Spartan and solid although the Scone Council wasn’t happy with his building it. One day he drove through its big double doors, after a few beers, but it was fixed up by night time. No worries.

When I was a kid, we had two large wooden tables in the kitchen. One was for ironing and cooking. The dining table was covered with a kind of lino, which was an interesting pattern and under which I could hide my crusts. I never wondered where they went after that, but they were always gone later on.

Never did get curly hair maybe had to do with eating crusts after all.

We did our homework at the other table.

We listened to the radio there; “Dad and Dave”; “Dexter Dutton”; “Police File” and “Dossier on Demetrius”, amongst others. There were Birthday parties, Christmas dinners, tears and fights over washing up, many of which I picked so I could get out of it.

Family gatherings were held in the kitchen We were sent outside with a bit of cake to play and they talked and gossiped unhindered. We didn’t expect to stay inside but some of us did eavesdrop just outside the door till that got too boring or we got caught. Usually me.

In the kitchen we watched Dad sneak up behind Mum and undo her apron strings when she was ironing, and listened to her laughter when he did it over and over and called her “Margo” which she hated.

In the kitchen I regaled mum with what had happened at school or wherever and talked about everything and she listened, and I knew she listened. She did this for all five of us. She was an interested mother, and that made her interesting to me.

When I was young that kitchen was a rich and glorious place at times. Sometimes I got my just desserts there, which never did me any harm at all.

When I was a kid, kids got school sores and boils but never nits. They just didn’t seem to be around. We wore school uniforms, without question, the great leveller, and most of us wore ours till the serge was shiny at the back and would no longer pleat. We were happy with Vegemite sandwiches and water for School Lunch, and I loved the “Free” milk we got at playlunch, with no flavouring needed.

We ate watermelons outside on summer evenings and watched the stars come out. Fish and Chips was a permanent fixture on Friday nights and Tony and Joan Tosalakis did a roaring trade at their Astoria CafĂ©. The fish and chips were affordable for all families unless the father drank too much or gambled. There were some very big families. I wasn’t aware of this though. We always had Fish and Chips.

All my stuff would’ve fitted into a small suitcase, except for my rock collection. I liked to dig for treasure and was allowed, as long as it wasn’t in the centre of the yard. Why would I want to do that?

When I was young, I knew Dad loved Mum and she loved him. He was happy to take her to see Aunts and Uncles, and we seemed to visit Mum’s people more than Dad’s. Dad became part of Mum’s family in a way she never became a part of his. She tried – but it was just how they were at times.

When I was young I wet the bed nightly till I was nine. Whew! Mum never made a big deal out of it and never roused on me for it. I was never afraid of her reactions on any subject. In fact I seldom saw her angry, although she had to be. I am sure I was a bit of a trial at times, but she would say, “Therese you are such a card!” and that sounded like approval to me.

Mum was a lady in a way neither money nor training could achieve. It was an internal state of being with her. A graciousness and gentle feeling around her, that allowed her in later years to get away with wearing yellow beanie, with brown coat and purple tracksuit pants and only raised a little curve of the lips from all of us.

She was just lovely and I was lucky.

Dad did get angry at times…a short fuse but it burnt out quickly and was gone just as quick. I saw him once trying to go crook on us but unable to hold a straight face at our expressions… so any trouble was soon sorted and it felt clean, not as if any one of us was treated unfairly.

Very important when we are young.

When I was young our drinking and hair washing water came from the tank; our meat from the meatworks a block away. Meat came from sheep, cattle and pigs, which were trucked in by road or train and which we would hear when they parked outside our house at night time. No illusions there. We had no sunscreen, wore no hats and had no Zinc cream. We wouldn’t have worn it if we had any. That looked a bit namby.

When I was young people could be intolerant, stupid, cruel and narrow. People gossiped. Just like they do today and have always done. Like hens in the chook yard, they instinctively looked for the sick hen to peck. Mum said they acted like this because they were ignorant.

Unmarried mothers hardly existed because they were forced to hand over their babies or had them stolen from them. Parents endangered beloved daughters by arranging backyard abortions, from which some died and others were maimed for life. Society turned a blind eye to the suffering and human rights abuse of these young girls and women.

Young men were always blameless and encouraged quietly behind closed doors to sew their wild oats, condom free. They were men after all and men have these needs.

Boys were “young and adventurous”. Girls were “fast and loose”

It was wrong.

When I was young some fathers, uncles and brothers abused wives, daughters and children. Most women pretended that this didn’t happen, to save the marriage. The marriage had to be saved at all costs and was often more important than the reason for marriage.

Children in such families were punished instead if they complained, or they learned to shut up.

But when I was young I didn’t know any of this because I was young. I had good parents and family to whom children were important and women were treated honourably. There was a lot of love in our family and we were treated with respect for our differences to each other.

Lucky me, when I was young.

Therese Mackay – June 2005

Heart To Heart

Heart To Heart.  
(654 words)

Down through the black square.
“I’ll hit the bottom this time.” She said inside her head. Her skin prickled in a cold-hot flush. She jumped, and started breathing.

She was sitting in the evening cool. She was a small dumpy old lady ensconced in a battered cane chair.

She rubbed stubby old hands across pale blue eyes…eyes the colour of distance. Gruffly she swiped the tears away.

     “ Is that all that’ll happen? Do I just go to sleep and nothing?” She said out loud to no one, to everyone. Her raspy cry cut through the moist evening air. There was a rare moment of total stillness and the world stopped for the moment as if to think about the old lady’s question.
     Her heart flopped in its own mad rhythm, reminding her loudly,
     “Nah! You won’t get out of it that easy. I’m going to be darn sure to wake you up first, after all the trouble you’ve given me over the years.

     The huge heart flopped about some more and said,
     “You don’t want to go unprepared and wander round like a wisp and scaring everyone? You can rely on me to do that last service. I’ll make sure you get the big ‘whammo’ so you’re wide awake. Why miss the biggest ride of your life?”

The old heart resumed its frantic rhythm. Mrs McGillicuddy looked at her chest in astonishment.
     “ My heart talks! Wonder when it learnt to do that? Hm? I need a big bloody drink.”

     Florrie McGillicuddy took a small sip from the glass of Brandy.
     “Just to steady down the old heart.” She took another bigger sip, and then a noisy gulp.
     “That should sort the old ticker out.” Her old body flooded with warmth. Her heart began to beat more regularly. Florrie leant back and deeply sucked in the moist evening air.

In that twilight she had a moment, a rush of total contentment. Florrie felt a thrilling sense of connection with this time. The colours of the twilight became luminous and little spics of light danced in the air before her face.

She was about to spend another night sitting up. She had too much fluid in her old lungs to lie down in bed. She’d liked the past week sleeping here, watching the dying sun and colours so pure she felt them opening her heart gently like the petals of a rose.

When she’d first decided to try to sleep out here, she thought that if she did die at least the neighbours might see her. But she grew to realise she had never felt more alive than she was feeling right now.

     “Just me and my blanket and the old Chateau Tanunda.” She said raising the sticky glass with nicotine stained fingers. A golden strobe of sunlight flashed through the glass and stroked Florrie’s face.

     “Oh Lor’! Look at the sky.” she said. The heavens pulsed with flush after flush of golds, pinks, and blues. It was so beautiful it took Florrie’s breath away.

     Then she remembered to breathe again. Florrie’s heart opened and warmth flooded into her chest. Her heart opened wider till Florrie felt she was lighter than air.

     A light in the sky moved slowly towards her. Gently, inexorably it circled towards her and then it hovered before her eyes and washed her over in its light.

Familiar hands helped Florrie up out of her chair and with a fleeting backwards glance at the old home, she moved away from its frailty.

The neighbours found her body in the morning sitting stolidly in its chair. Her right hand was locked round the Brandy Glass. A great grin was spread across her face.

“At least poor Florrie got to die in her sleep” The neighbour whisked the Brandy glass away and closed Florrie’s lovely eyes. She was at a loss to explain why her fingers came away covered in  golden dust.
Therese Mackay  March 27/3/05

“Craggy Island”
43 Willow Crescent
Port Macquarie NSW 2444

The Verdict

This poem came about after our writers group all got to read on local radio, our work. We are about 50% Aussie born and the rest from Scotland and  England. One of the husband’s made the comment that the best readers were from Pommieland.  This is my reply to him…!

The Verdict
The verdict is now in; we can all do our sums,
From Yorkshire and Scotland, or from London slums,
Their musical, modulated enunciation,
Their rich and well-paced pronunciation
And for their accented, articulate, articulation
We stand in awe and absolute adulation,
With wailing and gnashing of teeth for
No matter how correctly they give us their instruction,
The best readers in our group appear to be Poms.

Not like us, us low bred; bred from convict scum,
From a motley lot who don’t know where we came from.
Drawling slow and dreary  - as bleak as a hot Sunday afternoon,
Under brazen open skies our narrowed lips and eyes,
Droning flat our vowels -  flat as the land of our birth,
Or rattling out our words like bullets
So as not to take up someone else’s time –
we’re an unselfish lot we are, that way.
Nah! We’ll never read as good as any Pom.

But stone the crows and starve the lizards,
we’ve got colour in our language.
It sears with sarcasm, hot as tar in February
And a flick of a word from a closed mouth can wound or praise,
Even though you might have to ask for it to be repeated.
Yes, and we’ve learned from the Master -  Paul,
from Bankstown, that a soufflé rising twice
has nothing at all to do with cooking. Thank you Paul.
But nah! We’ll never read as good as any Pom.

Even “Blind Freddie could see that Poms all read so well
And so what if they “have more hide than Jessie”,
and don’t know “whether they’re Arthur or Martha”.
So what if they’ve got “more front than Myers”
And are well known to be shy of water,
But we’re such happy little “Vegemites’
(Or should I call us Dickie Mites, now they’ve sold our National icon,)
We’ll let them read on radio, with their peculiar pacing pronunciations
All sounding vaguely like Judy Dench, God love her  -

That’s the sort of people that we are,
But nah! Still, we’ll never read as good as any Pom.
Therese Mackay  - Nov 2004

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Vegemite Antidote

The Vegemite Antidote.

There were the three of us, my sister June who was twelve, Beryl who was 13, and a true horror at times, and myself just eleven. We’d decided one hot day to go for a walk up the long hill out of town, vegemite sandwiches in hand. We never worried about water, and no one had backpacks or drink bottles that we knew of. It was late in summer, one of those intensely hot days where the air has a glass like quality and things feel brittle and dry. It was hazy in the distance but the sky was blue, blue, blue as only an Australian sky can be in late summer.

We had decided to see how far we could walk before midday out into the countryside and then turn back again with our parents none the wiser.

Past the town dump (a most interesting place) we straggled… On along the thin dusty gravel road.

I had trouble keeping up with them, then it was a matter of catching up as they would get so far ahead, I would have to run on and off to at least keep them in sight. I was more of a swimmer and June and Beryl were known to be good runners. Every little while they would pull ahead and stop, turn and watch my red faced, useless attempts to re join them. I must have looked pretty funny because they seem to be laughing by the time I got near them and then off they’d sprint.

The hot morning drew close to noon and finally when I looked up they were no longer to be seen anywhere.

I was completely alone. A stillness settled in me and for the moment something, some strangeness was in me; around me. I stopped my silly fuming and temper at how I was being treated and looked around me. It was so intensely beautiful. In the distance the low blue mountains moved in waves… waves of energy…waves of heat.

My stubby feet seemed stuck to the road.

I no longer felt like that stumpy red faced blonde headed child with her shabby shorts and her T-shirt. The clothes came down to me after Veronica and June had worn them. But June was always slimmer than me so by the time I got them they were too small and looked a bit weird. I knew this but mostly only cared if someone laughed.

I felt taller, straighter and in some place I wanted to be, to stay, far away from the hot, invasive tackiness of the town I lived in.

I was no longer the child I had been moments before.

There was a moment in time when the whole world seemed to become still, intensely quiet, and I was aware of it.

The moments passed and I began to become very afraid. They’d been gone for so long. Knowing I would never catch them I devised a foolproof way of getting them to come back to me.

Needs must.

“Snake! Snake! Snake!” I screamed out using every bit of air in my lungs, always a great actor as a child.

Needs must again.

“Snake!” I bellowed. “I’ve been bitten!”

Out of the trees up ahead they quietly emerged, hesitantly. Unbelieving, but not so sure. They’d been watching me.

“See, she talks to herself, first sign of madness” that bit of wisdom came out of Beryl’s tight little mouth. She spouted this regularly to anyone who’d listen and about anyone she could. She was a cruel little bugger at times.

“Show us! Show us!” they chorused together as they slowly and nervously approached me, standing stock still in the same spot I had been grounded in.

“Show us…g’wan you little liar.” Who said that?

“You can’t see it. “ I yelled back at them beginning to stagger a bit. That’s what snakebite would do I imagined. “You can’t see it…(why?)”

“You can’t see it because I put Vegemite on it to stop the poison!” Quick thinking Therese. I quickly stuck my finger into the greaseproof paper, into the sandwich and clawed out the vegemite and whacked it on my arm.

“See!” I thrust my arm confidently.

They laughed and pointed and laughed some more. We turned for home, the down hill part…much better.

I tried to keep up the pretence as long as my pride would let me, and we walked back to town eating our vegemite sandwiches with gusto. Not bad for a snakebite victim.

The story of the “snakebite and the vegemite antidote, did the rounds and caused some merriment, and once the embarrassment of my lie died down, I thought it was a pretty good yarn too.

I was not longer a child though.

When I arrived home, I was bleeding.

I thought I had Kidney disease like a friend of ours, Zita Stevens had. She had recently died from that.

Sure I was going to die, I went and told Mum.

It was my first period…a strange day and one I had almost forgotten, till now.

At eleven, I could never understand the contrast between my outside life, which was my life, and a life I enjoyed being a social sort of kid, and the internal life which was with me all the time. That life I kept well hidden, except from Mum, mostly.

I didn’t dwell too much on this. It was more an awareness.

It was like there was the appearance of me; stocky, strong, rough headed hair cuts, living to swim in summer in all the daylight hours if I was let be; talking constantly, asking questions, quick to anger, just as quick to get over it, laughing loud and long in all the wrong places, as well as the right ones…

…then there was this kid who would wonder at the mountain range, sitting low on the distant horizon behind our house. The kid who happily would watch for hours the sun setting and the colours arrive above the mountains. Behind those mountains was a magic world, like Atlantis, a place I know I was unaware of at this age. I never crossed that mountain range in childhood nor in adulthood, and am glad for that because the wonder remained untouched by the physical reality that what really was over that mountain although beautiful was most likely pretty much the same as what was on my side.

At that moment of change from the frustrated, hot and angry eleven year old child to the tall, ageless spiritual being, which was how I felt in those still solitary moments; I became aware of it, became aware of the change in me, in the atmosphere and in my understanding.

For that precious moment I did not have to worry about public scrutiny. Children do not really have much privacy in that way. Everything they own, write, say and do can be pried into by others. Even the private places are not sacrosanct as with adults, unless parents are generally sensitive, which mine were. But there is for many kids, this screaming need for a private place, a private time, something noble to aspire to, without ridicule, or help.

In that moment I felt holy.

At times in my life, whether out under the stars at night or at the kitchen sink, I have felt myself to be taller, as if the sink is lower and my head seems to be almost pulled up. When this happens its not as dramatic as it sounds, but this is how I can describe it with the words I have at hand.

It passes quickly, but its like an infusion of spirit…or something.

It felt like (feels like) that for the moment I “know” and if asked what it is I suddenly “know”, well a good way to answer is just “stuff”.

It comes rarely, but when it does come it comes freely and its not because of something great or wonderful about oneself, no its more of a humbling moment.

Here I was, plodding along in my little childhood world. Hot, angry, frustrated and a bit sad because what I had hoped would be a wonderful day, a different day was destroyed.

I was too young to know, to young to understand that they hadn’t wanted me to come along because I was younger and that’s all it was…and here I was tagging along. Slowing them down. Probably seeming like a nuisance because I just could not keep up….

…then for some wonderful reason only God knows, only the great Universe knows, or maybe there was no reason at all, I was given a gift of knowing. As said, what it was I knew…was just “stuff". Maybe I as an adult would say it was just being allowed insight into beauty and energy and the nature of creation…because that’s what it felt like.

For the small town child, going out into the country, not just driving through it as with family trips, not just a flash here and there, but walking out into it was like Manna. It fed my soul. It still feeds my soul to see a wide sky above me and to breathe in the vastness and vulnerability about me. I feel like that, I felt like that. Vast and yet vulnerable.

My rapid return to ‘normality’ was self-inflicted by the fear. A fear which comes to us if we let go too much, unguided. Maybe that fear for a child, or adult is a good thing. That fear may protect us, because maybe we are not at that time equipped to handle the full gift of knowing, but are let know it exists throughout our lives so we never forget it exists.

For me, to forget the other, to forget the beauty, the spirit, the strangeness, the “stuff” would be like dying. I think.

I can’t separate myself from the eleven year old inside my fifty one year old. For me its just another aspect of my self and right now as I write this, as I remember a day almost forgotten, it only seems moments away.

Yes just moments away.

I stand looking at myself a shock of recognition from the child at what I look like now, and an equal shock from my fifty one year old self at how honest fresh and real that child was.

Therese Mackay
April 2005